Q&A with District 834 School Board incumbent Michael Ptacek
• Age: 73
• City of residence: Stillwater
• Years lived in district: 26
• Education: Bachelor's, master's, Ph.D., University of Wisconsin
• Occupation: Forty years of experience as a teacher, principal, curriculum director, and education consultant
• Notable community and civic involvement: Eight years of experience as a school board member, including three years as vice chairman, one year as clerk, and four years on the District 916 Intermediate School Board; eight years as a board member and volunteer at Valley Outreach, including one year as chairman and four years as secretary; founding member of YDAP, purpose to prevent use of drugs and alcohol among teens; helped initiate the Courage Retreat utilized annually for all seventh graders in junior high school
• Contact: (no answer)
Why are you running for the Stillwater Area School Board?
In addition to wanting to make a difference, I am a strong believer in civic involvement and community service. When I was a curriculum director in the Green Bay district for seven years, I oversaw a community service requirement of 24 hours for students to graduate. I got very used to justifying and explaining that requirement to students and parents. Undoubtedly it rubbed off on me. This is my community service!
What are the biggest issues in District 834 for residents living in Woodbury?
How do you plan to address these issues if elected?
As a proud parent of two graduates from Stillwater Schools, I am dedicated to unifying our district and ensuring our schools remain a place of excellence.
Unity will not occur by closing three elementary schools. That action is more likely to divide us and pit one school against another school. The closing will make it very difficult, if not downright impossible, to garner the district-wide support needed to renew an operational levy, and/or needed facilities in the foreseeable future.
This division has already begun and the opposition to the closings has not gone away.
The closings are not going to enhance student learning and lead to trust. Rather they are going to continue to divide us and perpetuate fear, mistrust, and division. We need a new look!
District 834 needs unification, positive growth, true collaboration, and open and honest discussion. I have heard other candidates claim that they hope for similar things; even though they support — and one actually voted for — the school closings that created the division in our district.
The variety of our schools and the varied school delivery adds to and strengthens us as a district. My vision is not in opposition to equal opportunity, but rather to considering other options including revisiting the individual marketing of our elementary schools. We tried marketing in several of our elementary schools, and it worked.
There are so many powerful and positive attributes of each District 834 school and each has its own exceptional way of meeting family needs. The 2014 Long-Range Plan included pre-K in every elementary school, recognized that success and built on it. There was no mention of closing schools.
What distinguishes you from the other candidates?
My experience has included more than 40 years of experience as a professional educator, earning three degrees from University of Wisconsin-Madison including a Ph.D. in education administration and spending eight years as a School Board member and four years as an officer.
More importantly, as an incumbent board member, I have displayed a willingness to first listen to all stakeholders, encourage freedom of expression, not only for myself, but also others, ask tough questions, and demand thorough and transparent answers.
I also have a clear vision that quality educational outcomes are developed from strong partnerships between teachers, parents, students, and business and community leaders. As a consultant for the Kern Family Foundation — which funded grants for a pre-engineering program, Project Lead the Way (PLTW) — I demonstrated success in recruiting numerous businesses and industries as partners with local school districts. I played a pioneering role in bringing PLTW to District 834 and St. Croix Catholic School and piloted it with no initial District 834 cost.
I am proud of having played a leadership role in developing the Stillwater schools' program that enables students to earn a varsity letter in community service.